Review of “Conventionally Yours” (True Colors #1) by Annabeth Albert

Albert, Annabeth. Conventionally Yours. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1728200293 | $14.99 USD | 384 pages | Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Conventionally Yours is my first book by Annabeth Albert, and it won’t be the last. This book is a charming road-trip romance between unlikely lovers that also isn’t afraid to tackle some of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse people, especially those just coming of age and figuring out what they want to do.

I liked both Conrad and Alden, and how their rivalry never felt over the top, leading to a realistic progression to love. I also like that the characters have nuance, discussing Conrad’s rejection by his parents due to his sexuality and how it led to him having to drop out of school because of the financial stuff, and Alden’s struggle post-college figuring out what to do with his life when his first choice didn’t pan out. And their coming to an understanding about these secret parts of each other, and how it led to more, was really sweet. 

The main premise revolves around gaming, so at times, I did feel a bit out of my depth, but enough of that phenomenon is conveyed to get the gist of it, even if it wasn’t necessarily my favorite part of the book. 

This was a fun book, and I can’t wait to read more from Albert going forward. I recommend this to lovers of LGBTQ+ romance and/or those interested in stories centered on gaming. 

Author Bio

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.  She has penned many critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ  romance series.  To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, be sure to join her reader group on Facebook! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and particularly loves uncovering unique main characters. In her personal life, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children. She’s a compulsive knitter, late night reader, obsessive gamer, and happy bi-pride flag waver.

Represented by Deidre Knight, The Knight Agency

Publicity assistance from A Novel Take PR 

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Review of “The Seaside Cafe” (The Book Club #1) by Rochelle Alers

Alers, Rochelle. The Seaside Cafe. New York: Dafina Books, 2020. 

ISBN-13; 978-1496721860 | $15.95 USD | 304 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

Set on breathtaking Coates Island, off the coast of North Carolina, bestselling author Rochelle Alers’ new series debut brings together three book-loving women whose summer will offer a chance to rewrite their own stories . . .

For three decades, the Seaside Café has served delicious meals to locals and island tourists alike. Kayana Johnson has moved home to help her brother run the café—and to nurse her wounds following a deep betrayal. Between cooking favorite recipes—creole chicken with buttermilk waffles, her grandmother’s famous mac and cheese—and spending time reading, Kayana is trying to embrace a life free of entanglements, while staying open to new connections . . .
 
After striking up conversation with two customers, Kayana suggests a summer book club. Each week, they’ll meet on the patio to talk about their favorite novels. But there are plot twists awaiting them in real life too. For schoolteacher Leah, this two-month sojourn is the first taste of freedom she’s had in her unhappy marriage. Cherie, filled with regret about her long-term affair with a married politician, discovers a powerful new passion. And Kayana finds a kindred spirit in a reclusive visitor who’s ready to make his true identity known, and fill this summer with new possibilities . . .
 

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Rochelle Alers is yet another new-to-me author that came to my attention in my conscious effort to diversify my reading and prioritize more authors of color, and I was particularly intrigued by the book club theme for this upcoming release, The Seaside Cafe. The book itself puts equal focus on the second chance romance between Kayana and Graeme, and the book club aspect. 

I found Kayana and Graeme’s relationship really sweet, especially since both have dealt with heartbreak in their past. Kayana learning to trust again is a focal point, given the way her ex betrayed her, and I think this was well done.

While the book club starts off as a group of unlikely people coming together, and they do spend as much time bickering as they do talking about their chosen books, I found that aspect really fun, especially as it allowed them insights into each others’ lives. both Leah and Cherie also have woes when it comes to love, so seeing them bond over that is great, and I can’t wait to see how it develops in the next book. 

I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to trying more of Alers’ work in the future. I recommend this if you like sweet stories with equal emphasis on romance and friendship. 

Author Bio

Rochelle Alers was born in Manhattan, New York, USA, where she raised. She obtained degrees in Sociology and Psychology, before started to work. She is a member of the Iota Theta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and her interests include gourmet cooking and traveling. She has traveled to countries in North, Central and South America, and Europe. She is also in accomplished in knitting, crocheting and needlepoint.

Published since 1988, today a full-time writer, has been hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today’s most prolific and popular African-American authors of romance and women’s fiction. With more than fifty titles and nearly two million copies of her novels in print, she is a regular on the Waldenbooks, Borders and Essence bestseller lists, regularly chosen by Black Expressions Book Club, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Pen Award, the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. She also wrote as Susan James and Rena McLeary.

Rochelle Alers lives in a charming hamlet on Long Island.

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Review of “Recipe for Persuasion” (The Rajes #2) by Sonali Dev

Dev, Sonali. Recipe for Persuasion. New York: William Morrow, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062839077 | $15.99 USD | 464 pages | Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

From the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors comes another , clever, deeply layered, and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows in the Jane Austen tradition—this time, with a twist on Persuasion.

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen? 

Rico Silva, that’s what.  

Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster. 

FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva isn’t too happy to be paired up with Ashna either. Losing Ashna years ago almost destroyed him. The only silver lining to this bizarre situation is that he can finally prove to Ashna that he’s definitely over her. 

But when their catastrophic first meeting goes viral, social media becomes obsessed with their chemistry. The competition on the show is fierce…and so is the simmering desire between Ashna and Rico.  Every minute they spend together rekindles feelings that pull them toward their disastrous past. Will letting go again be another recipe for heartbreak—or a recipe for persuasion…? 

In Recipe for Persuasion, Sonali Dev once again takes readers on an unforgettable adventure in this fresh, fun, and enchanting romantic comedy. 

In the series

#1 Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Review 

2.5 stars 

While the first book would have been a solid loose P&P retelling were it not for a mishandling with the Yash subplot, I found Recipe for Persuasion bland by comparison. There is the basic setup Persuasion there, with the reunited lovers once parted due to class differences, but it loses all the punch of the original in Dev’s reimagining. 

Neither of the leads is particularly likable or memorable. In fact, not being a fan of vengeance plots, I found Rico’s ploy to worm his way into the Rajes’ cooking show after having a chip on his shoulder years later after being dumped by Ashna in high school immature, and he didn’t become endearing over time either. And while Ashna doesn’t have anything wrong with her, she’s not particularly memorable either. I had no idea what they saw in each other. 

And while Ashna’s mother is self concerned and neglectful, it was her arc that ultimately carried me through the book, especially as the circumstances of her abusive marriage to Ashna’s father were revealed, and handled with far greater delicacy than the issues of the previous book. I would have been much happier if the story had shifted to focus more on her and her relationship with Ashna, as well as her finding love again. 

From a brief glance at the reviews, this one is definitely polarizing, with some loving it, and some sharing my sentiments. I think if it interests you, I’d recommend reading it for yourself to form your own opinion. 

Author Bio

USA Today Bestselling author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after.

Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s Best Books of the year lists. She has won the American Library Association’s award for best romance, the RT Reviewer Choice Award for best contemporary  romance, multiple RT Seals of Excellence, is a RITA® finalist, and has been listed for the Dublin Literary award. Shelf Awareness calls her “Not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today.”She lives in Chicagoland with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.Find more at sonalidev.com.

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Review of “Date Me, Bryson Keller” by Kevin van Whye

Van Whye, Kevin. Date Me, Bryson Keller. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-0593126035 | $17.99 USD | 336 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

Blurb

What If It’s Us meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a ’90s rom-com!

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world–and with each other.

Review 

5 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Date Me, Bryson Keller is a sweet LGBTQ+ YA rom-com, in the vein of similar hits like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. While it never loses the light charm it starts off with, the book isn’t afraid to tackle the issues of self-discovery and homophobia in a sensitive way. 

Kai is a likable protagonist, and I could empathize with his struggles with concealing his sexuality and fearing the judgment and hatred he might be targeted with. And while the family rejection is a factor, I was both shocked and moved at how some of his schoolmates reacted.

Bryson is such a cool guy, and so open to the idea of dating Kai for the dare, and the way his own discovery of his identity is explored is well done. And I liked the frank discussion of how them dating technically didn’t go against the rules, but since they kept it a secret 

Phi and it just looked like “two guys hanging out,” by the heteronormative standards through which the dare was originally proposed (even though it wasn’t explicit about it), it seemed like he wasn’t with anyone at first. 

This book is a great balance of sweet and fluffy with an exploration of the deeper issues facing LGBTQ+ teens. I recommend it both to teens and adults who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies looking for a strong ownvoices read. 

Author Bio

Credit:  Brandon Barnard Photography.

Kevin van Whye is a writer born and raised in South Africa, where his love for storytelling started at a young age. At four years old, he quit preschool because his teacher couldn’t tell a story. Kevin’s love affair with stories led him to film school to study script writing. Date Me, Bryson Keller is his first novel. Kevin currently lives in Johannesburg.

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Review of a Taste of Sage” by Yaffa S. Santos

Santos, Yaffa S. A Taste of Sage. New York: Harper, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062974846 | $15.99 USD | 320 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

From talented new writer, Yaffa S. Santos, comes this unforgettable, heartwarming, and hilarious rom-com about chefs, cooking, love, and self-discovery that is a cross between The Hating Game and Sweetbitter.

Lumi Santana is a chef with the gift of synesthesia—she can perceive a person’s emotions just by tasting their cooking. Despite being raised by a single mother who taught her that dreams and true love were silly fairy tales, she decides to take a chance and puts her heart and savings into opening a fusion restaurant in Inwood, Manhattan. The restaurant offers a mix of the Dominican cuisine she grew up with and other world cuisines that have been a source of culinary inspiration to her.

When Lumi’s eclectic venture fails, she is forced to take a position as a sous chef at a staid, traditional French restaurant in midtown owned by Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his acid tongue as well as his brilliant smile. Lumi and Julien don’t get along in the kitchen–to say Lumi is irritated by Julien’s smug attitude is an understatement, and she secretly vows never to taste his cooking. Little does she know that her resolve doesn’t stand a chance against Julien’s culinary prowess.

As Julien produces one delectable dish after another, each one tempting Lumi with its overwhelming aromas and gorgeous presentations, she can no longer resist and samples one of his creations. She isn’t prepared for the feelings that follow as she’s overcome with intense emotions. She begins to crave his cooking throughout the day, which throws a curveball in her plan to save up enough money and move on as soon as possible. Plus, there’s also the matter of Esme, Julien’s receptionist who seems to always be near and watching. As the attraction between Lumi and Julien simmers, Lumi experiences a tragedy that not only complicates her professional plans, but her love life as well…

Clever, witty, and romantic, A Taste of Sage is sure to delight and entertain readers until the very last page.

Review 

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A Taste of Sage has an intriguing concept, comparable to a rom-com version of Like Water for Chocolate. And in that regard, it delivers, with sumptuous food descriptions and recipes throughout, and inclusion of Lumi’s unique ability in a fun way in the plot (even if it does take an absurd turn later for the sake of plot convenience).

Lumi herself is relatable, pursuing her dream until she loses everything, and finding herself working as a sous chef under an inflexible head chef.

But I expected there to be some growth on Julien’s part in terms of rediscovering his love of food, and it’s there to an extent, but it just didn’t materialize in a way that made sense or had as big an impact on the plot.

Also, while there is major unspoken chemistry between the two prior to them getting together, especially when they were butting heads, the payoff of them being together wasn’t there, and I just didn’t root for their relationship, even in the crisis point where the break up. 

This is a book that has some great ideas,  but could have used more work fine tuning some of them to make a more convincing and cohesive romance. If you like foodie romance, I think this might be worth trying, just for the unique aspects. 

Author Bio

Yaffa S. Santos was born and raised in New Jersey. A solo trip to Dominican Republic in her teenage years changed her relationship to her Dominican heritage and sparked a passion for cooking and its singular ability to bring people together. Yaffa is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied writing and visual art. She is a member of RWA. She has lived in New York, Philadelphia, Santo Domingo, and now lives in Florida with her family.

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Review of “Family for Beginners” by Sarah Morgan

Morgan, Sarah. Family for Beginners. Toronto, Ontario: HQN, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1335014931 (paperback)/978-1488056666 (ebook) | $16.99 USD (paperback)/$9.99 USD (ebook) | 384 pages | Women’s Fiction 

Blurb

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with a life-affirming exploration of love, loss, and how families come in all shapes and sizes…

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare—she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then her father invites Flora on their summer vacation…

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed—and to find the family she’s always wanted.

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

This is my first book by Sarah Morgan, but I’ve occasionally heard her books mentioned by others, and based on my experience with this one, it won’t be my last. This is a heartwarming story about family being about more than blood, with the main characters each finding (or redefining) their place in the family unit. 

I really felt for orphaned Flora who never really felt like she belonged anywhere due to losing her mother at a young age. And the sweet relationship that develops between her and Jack was made even more compelling by the way he begins to welcome her into his still grief-stricken family, leading to an evolving relationship with his two daughters: the younger, Molly embraces her relatively quickly, while the elder, Izzy, does not. 

I enjoyed getting Izzy’s perspective as well, because while it seemed at first to be a story where the daughter has to deal with “dad’s new girlfriend” that she’s hostile to, there’s depth to it, by exploring a revelation about her mother that puts her off balance and has her questioning her identity and place in the family. And the addition of Clare’s perspective as the best friend to Jack’s late wife Becca, while not my favorite parts of the novel, further contextualizes the way they are dealing with grief, as well as the reality of who Becca was. 

I enjoyed this book and its sweet story about family and healing from loss. I recommend this to anyone looking for a cozy, heartwarming contemporary read.

Author Bio

Sarah Morgan is a Sunday Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She has sold over 18 million copies of her books, and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe.  Her books have been translated into 28 languages and have earned her starred reviews from Publishers WeeklyBooklist and Library Journal.

Sarah lives near London, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves spending time outdoors, walking or riding her mountain bike. She frequently stops to take photographs, much to the annoyance of her family.

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Review of “Island Affair” (Keys to Love #1) by Priscilla Oliveras

Oliveras, Priscilla. Island Affair. New York: Zebra, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1420150179 (paperback)/978-1420150186 (eBook) | $15.95 USD (paperback)/$10.49 (eBook) | 352 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancé . . .
 
Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their island romance last or fade with the stunning sunset?
 

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Island Affair is an enjoyable new release from Priscilla Oliveras, and while it doesn’t quite measure up to the sheer perfection of the Matched to Perfection series, particularly the latter two books in the series, I enjoyed this one nonetheless. 

Oliveras creates another to-die-for hero in the form of Luis. He’s just a solid, good guy, and I like that he wants to save everyone, which is built into his chosen career as a firefighter, but also has some issues from his past he has to work through over the course of the book. 

Sara is also interesting. While I don’t know if the rep for eating disorders is accurate, I do trust that Oliveras did her research. I could definitely relate to her feeling of never being enough to please her family, although not to the same degree. 

I did feel a little bogged down at times with two large complex families with big issues to follow, especially in comparison to the smaller scale of MtP. However, given this is also the first in a series, it is introducing the cast, some of whom will play roles as heroes or heroines in their own books going forward, so I suppose it’s par for the course.

This is a sweet romance with a healthy dash of spice (although, it should be noted that, like her previous work, the sex is fade-to-black following a bit of foreplay). I recommend this book if you like sweet stories with a Latinx flavor and a strong focus on family dynamics as well as romance. 

Author Bio

PRISCILLA OLIVERAS is a USA Today bestselling author and 2018 RWA® RITA® double finalist who writes contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. Proud of her Puerto Rican-Mexican heritage, she strives to bring authenticity to her novels by sharing her Latinx culture with readers. She and her work have earned praise from the Washington Post, New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Redbook, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, among others. Priscilla earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and currently serves as adjunct faculty in the program and teaches the online class “Romance Writing” for ed2go. While she’s a romance genre junkie, Priscilla also considers herself a sports fan, beach lover, and Zumba aficionado, who often practices the art of napping in her backyard hammock.

To follow along on her fun-filled and hectic life, visit her on the web at https://prisoliveras.com/books/, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prisoliveras, or on Twitter and Instagram via @prisoliveras.

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Review of “Racetrack Royalty” (Merindah Park #4) by Renee Dahlia

Dahlia, Renee. Racetrack Royalty. Sydney: Escape Publishing, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1489298713 | $2.99 USD | 250 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

One fast horse, and a whirlwind romance set among the glamour of Royal Ascot.

Shannon Bassett

It’s a long way from Merindah Park, Australia, to Royal Ascot–but that’s where I’ve found myself. The international stud farm that bought my horse, Biographical, want him to race and as his trainer, they need me here. I’m not the top hat and penguin suit type, and the media here don’t get my horse at all–unlike the beautiful woman reading the newspaper over my shoulder on the train today. I’m going home soon so I shouldn’t fall for Ananya, but she understands me as well as horses … and she’s sexy as hell …

Ananya Rahman

According to my middle class, hard-working parents, I have the world’s weirdest hobby. I love doing pedigree analysis on racehorses, and I spend much of my hard-earned cash every year on clothes for Royal Ascot. Still, I didn’t mean to lecture this cute Aussie about his own horse on the train today–or to be pulled into his fancy world of horse breeders. I’m a London girl and he’s from the other side of the world … but we both forget that when we kiss. What happens when the races are over?

In the series

#1 Merindah Park

#2 Making Her Mark

#3 Two Hearts Healing

Review

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

While publishing is very America-centric, I’m always interested to find authors located outside the US, especially when they work with non-American publishers. And in the case of Racetrack Royalty, I got a sense of the local culture, with Dahlia paying tribute to the indigenous Eora Nation, as she noted in the acknowledgments. 

And this book focusing on the Royal Ascot in Australia, with both the leads being involved with horses is super fun, and one of several aspects where the book used real world information to create an entertaining story. 

I did like both Shannon and Ananya for the most part, and enjoyed seeing them bond over their shared interest. And the exploration of both of their family dynamics, especially hers, given her family is from Bangladesh, is well done, and is one of the better parts of the book for me. 

However, this is a case where I wish I had done a bit more research prior to requesting based on the blurb and what I knew about the author from social media, since, had I been told it was high heat earlier (or done more research), I may have reconsidered. And while I’m not opposed to high heat when done well, the inclusion of the sex here felt awkward and just didn’t feel right for me, especially since, apart from bonding over horses, they barely know each other and I didn’t finish the book feeling like this was a couple who had a firm foundation for a lasting relationship. 

There is a lot I like here, but perhaps this wasn’t the best place to start with Dahlia’s work due to my qualms with it. I do recommend it if you are more interested in high-heat contemporary romances, especially since there are several things it does do well. 

Author Bio

Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a sidenote of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse-racing industry doing data analysis and writing magazine articles. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée spends her time with her partner and four children, volunteers on the local cricket club committee, and is the Secretary of Romance Writers Australia.

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Review of “Love’s Recipe” by Mila Nicks

Nicks, Mila. Love’s Recipe. [United States]| Mila Nicks, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1676709541 | $2.99 USD | 241 pages | Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

Can two strangers down on their luck discover the flavor of love?

Rosalie Underwood is a broke, recently divorced single mother. After she’s forced to return to her hometown St. Aster, Louisiana, she lands a waitressing job at Ady’s Creole Café. Life’s not done giving her lemons just yet, though. Ady’s Creole Café is on the brink of going out of business. If Rosalie hopes to recover from her disastrous marriage and keep her job, she must figure out a way to save the restaurant. But the only question is how?

When Nicholas Fontaine hires Rosalie Underwood, he doesn’t expect his newest waitress to stir the pot. He was hoping to keep up the charade he’s created since his mother’s passing. Soon he realizes that Rosalie refuses to let Ady’s fail. She cooks up a plan to salvage the business—including the part where she enters the restaurant in a food competition to generate town-wide buzz.

There’s no time for butting heads. The clock is ticking and the business is tanking. Nick’s stuck teaching Rosalie how to cook the one-of-a-kind menu. Rosalie’s trying her best to learn the delicious recipes. In order to succeed, they must come together and work as a team, but brewing feelings between them only complicates matters. Is this a recipe for disaster or a recipe for love?

Review

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’m always looking for new diverse authors to follow, and this debut romance from Mila Nicks sounded promising. It has a nice cozy small-town vibe, and a sweet second-chance romance at the center of it.

I liked the fact that both Rosalie and Nick trying their best as single parents is a central part of the story, and something that brings them together. And seeing them bond by working together in Nick’s family’s restaurant, which faces going out of business, is cute too, especially as she inspires Nick to try to save it and come out of the slump created by grief in the wake of his mother’s passing.

This book is rather light, and given some of the topics it does touch on, I did sometimes wish it delved a little more into them instead of being more surface level, but I can’t fault it too much, as perhaps the author was going for a lighter feel, and I think it strikes a pretty decent balance, especially in these troubling times, of having some substance, while still allowing the reader a comforting escape.

I enjoyed this book, and will definitely keep an eye out for this author’s upcoming releases. I recommend this if you’re looking for a nice low-angst diverse contemporary romance. 

Author Bio

Mila Nicks is an emerging romance author on a mission to pen heartfelt love stories featuring women of color. This spring, she will release her debut novel titled “Love’s Recipe.”

From the time she was a small girl with crayons and an overactive imagination, she’s had a passion for storytelling. In addition to receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she is presently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. She has also served her country in the United States Air Force.

When she isn’t penning uplifting love stories, you can find this imaginative writer traveling across the globe, sampling new cuisines, or spending quality time with her spunky pet Chihuahua, Zayden. 

Buy links

Amazon (affiliate link)

Review of “Girl Gone Viral” (Modern Love #2) by Alisha Rai

Rai, Alisha. Girl Gone Viral. New York: Avon Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0063003989 (hardcover)/978-0062878137 (paperback)/978-0062877888 (ebook) | $27.99 USD (hardcover)/$15.99 USD (paperback)/$10.99 USD (ebook) | 400 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

In Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a live-tweet event goes viral for a camera-shy ex-model, shoving her into the spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’d been pining for.

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings [eyes emoji]

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…

Review

2.5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Right Swipe was one of my favorite books of last year, so I feel Girl Gone Viral had some big shoes to fill coming after it. And while there are things I enjoyed about this one, I didn’t feel like it had the same “spark” that the first book did.

The premise is great, especially since it does tap into both last year’s #PlaneBae controversy and Rai’s own experience the negative aspects of viral fame. And the inclusion of Katrina’s experience with panic attacks as a result of past trauma and how the experience of going viral magnified the issue was well-done.

However, the execution of the plot ends up falling flat. This is an incredibly slow burn, and it feels at times like nothing is happening. And the romance has so much potential, being somewhat friends-to-lovers, as well as the fact that he’s her bodyguard in a somewhat intense situation. However, I never really felt believed in their relationship or rooted for them.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I hoped, but I feel like there’s the bones of a good story here, given some of the topics it touches on. If you don’t mind a slower paced contemporary romance with a focus on the world of “modern romance” (dating apps and social media), perhaps you’ll enjoy this more than I did.

Author Bio

Alisha Rai pens award-winning contemporary romances and her novels have been named Best Books of the Year by Washington Post, NPR, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Kirkus, Oprah Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. When she’s not writing, Alisha is traveling or tweeting. To find out more about her books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit www.alisharai.com.

Buy links

Amazon (affiliate link)

Bookshop (affiliate link)

The Ripped Bodice (Paperback)

The Ripped Bodice (Hardcover)

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

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